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Manoa 17.1 (2005) 119-130

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Four Poems

At Twilight, Longing for My Amo

Looking left, a black hand
To the right, a black hand
A dark curtain shrouding me when
At twilight I long for my amo

In the front yard, there may be a potato patch
Where potatoes probably bloom.
Those potato flowers may bear seed pods.
As those potato flowers are busy blooming
Amo's sweat surges like a spring,
The drops of Amo's sweat
Ringing on potato leaves.

There may be a buckwheat patch in the backyard,
Buckwheat leaves as wide as grain sifters,
Seeds the size of fists.
How many buckwheat leaves
Were nurtured from sprouts by Amo?
How many buckwheat kernels
Were so carefully raised by Amo?

Oh, my amo, her back stacked with firewood,
Staggering from the woods across from home;
I can't say if her steps are steady or not,
As her feet may slip down the slope
And her hands may grasp only thin air.

Oh, my amo, she cut a basket of grass
Walking straight from the grasses behind the house.
I wonder if she can see her way clearly.
Will she step upon a toad or poison snake? [End Page 119]

Too hard to forget, too hard to forget!
Amo, busy borrowing money from the neighbors—
Will the neighbors' dogs bite her?
Will the neighbors' chickens peck her?
Don't fear, don't fear!
Not one of their dogs unkind;
Not one of their chickens unfriendly.

Don't worry, don't worry!
Amo may be in the sitting room, putting away food for hard times;
Or may be busy cooking there around the fireplace.
Or sitting and eating in the sitting room
Or busy knitting or weaving under the eaves
Or busy making whatever is needed at home
Or busy leaving
A heritage for her descendants.

Don't fear, don't fear!
My amo seems busy grinding grain by the millstones,
Calling chickens by the door
Feeding pigs at the pigsty
Standing on the hilltop before the house
Gazing into the distance, awaiting her
Youngest son's return home.

Oh, Amo!
Carrying a bucket of water thick as ink,
Carrying two buckets deep as the sea.
Tides surge behind the son.

The tidewaters are Amo's milk,
The tidewaters are Amo's sweat,
The tidewaters are Amo's blood.

Tides surge behind the son.
The son's body, milk;
His wisdom, sweat;
His life, blood.

Oh, Amo, you went to carry water,
Though the spring can never run dry,
Night comes.
What can I do? What can I do?

At twilight I long for my amo. [End Page 120]
Looking down, I sense the warmth
As warm as before I raised my head;
I wish to push aside those ashes that lie
Angled in the fireplace.

Tiger Skins

Grandfather hunted tigers.
Father sold tiger skins.

Before being sold,
Those tiger skins were hung before the house.
And as pregnant ewes crossed the courtyard one by one
Their lambs were lost.
Hung behind the house, those skins,
And the pears and peach trees withered one by one.

On the prairie of my dreams, Father
Strode among the crowds
Clothed in a tiger skin.
As shouts of "A tiger's coming" rang throughout
The stone walls of the village,
They cracked,
And rocks rolled like scrambling goats.
The last was Mother, chased by the tiger to wood's end;
There she died, yet was brought to life again.

Before being sold, the tiger skins
Were the skins of sky
The skins of earth
The skins of water
The skins of rock.
When turned into windows on the wall
Those tiger skins would reveal my person.
Should I be seen, it would be with
Hunting gun on shoulder.

When deciding to make a sacred drum of tiger skin,
One fears only those beats that deliver
Withering plagues through the endless forest.
On making a harness of tiger skin for the ox
The one fear is no more land to plow.
When making a banner of tiger skin
The one fear is that...